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Foreign countries, foreign choices

imageI was going on a business trip to Manila and would normally look for some local food options when traveling but since there was no Filipino restaurant anywhere to be found in or just around the hotel, I tried ‘UMU’ the Japanese restaurant in the lobby. I started with a slap of ‘Maguro Sashimi‘ (tuna) which was soft, tasted fantastically pure and drizzled with calamansi juice just became something else. A good start.

imageI don’t know why but I really like ‘Ebi Sushi‘ (cooked prawn), no specifically extraordinary taste but the perfect texture makes me order these nearly every time I’m in a Japanese restaurant and the ones at ‘UMU’ where some of the best I have ever had. They were clean, huge with a great bite and stuck to the rice perfectly. I loved them.

imageI wanted to keep it a tad healthier so I resisted my desire to order the ‘Agedashi Tofu‘ and ordered the ‘Hiyayakko‘, a cold tofu dish, instead. It was a lot but the beancurd tasted nicely milky and mixed with the chopped scallions, grated ginger and dipped into tempura sauce it honestly was really really nice.

‘UMU’ is a stylish setup place with Japanese interiors and designs, very friendly waiters and some fantastic dishes that will probably make me return here in case I should come back to the Philippines anytime soon.

UMU
Dusit Thani Manila
Ayala Centre
1223 Makati City
Metro Manila
Philippines
Tel: +63 (2) 238 8888

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Getting my textures on!

imageI finally managed to catch up with some lovely friends, including my very reliable Nippon food consultant, at Cuppage Plaza  over some quite interesting dishes. We met at ‘Kaiho’s’ a mid sized sushi bar on the third floor and to my surprise ended up having a multi course omakase set. The dinner kicked off with some starters like ‘Edamame‘, funny looking ‘Fish Crackers‘ and a delicious somehow cured ‘Cuttlefish‘. I was really skeptical as all these dried squid things are totally not mine but this was amazing, not too fishy with a soft elastic consistency. Best thing was the roe mayonnaise to dip it in.

imageNext was a fat slice of ‘Otoro‘ (fatty tuna belly). The rose meat melted between the otherwise rather hard and extremely chunky white bits which were really difficult to chew down all followed by an equally weird undefinable piece of chunky fat underneath. Taste wise good but texture, oh my.

imageThis was followed by a nice selection of small dishes like fried fish cubes, a selection of good quality sushi and sashimi, sweet crab legs, maguro soup (tuna), a wonderfully surprising ‘Agedashi Eal‘ and some sweet and creamy ‘Uni Handrolls‘ (sea urchin).

imageMy favorite dish of the night was a lightly seared ‘Beef Sushi‘. It had such a strong beefy flavor and even though cut fairly thick didn’t require any chewing at all. No teeth needed. Simply amazing.

imageAfter the official menu had finished we kept on ordering sushi variations and ended it all with above ‘Sardine Sushi‘ which was expectedly fishy but in a great way with something that seemed like a fermented bean and sambal paste on top that spiced it up properly.

For dessert we had a juicy yet a bit watery ‘Momo‘ (Japanese peach) and a brilliant ‘Wasabi Ice Cream’. To my delight the sharp wasabi taste and the light sweetness worked very well together but the awesome thing about this really was that with every spoon the heat grew on me so much that at the end I had to hang my tongue out of my mouth to give it some fresh air.

‘Kaiho Sushi’ is a nice little new place for my list and has a lot to offer. Maybe just the price and the variety of challenging textures here will make me choose places like ‘Nagomi‘ over this for my next omakase run.

http://bernardtang.com/

Kaiho Sushi
5 Koek Road
#03-01/02 Cuppage Plaza
Singapore 228796
Tel: +65 6738 1315

My Sushi Wonderland

imageThrough unforeseen coincidence my friend, who I just had visited in Hong Kong, came into town for a few days meeting. He stayed the Friday so I took him out to my newly discovered favorite sushi restaurant, ‘Fukuichi’.

Since I just been here a few weeks back we ordered some new things that I hadn’t tried the first time around. First up was the ‘Sake Sashimi‘ (salmon) which was lovely fresh and fatty, I just didn’t fancy the silver piece of skin on the top too much.

imageI was glad to hear they had the ‘Kanpachi Sushi‘ (greater amberjack) this time that was lovely soft and just a little oily on the dark red bits and because my buddy likes ‘Tamago Sushi‘ (sweet omelette) so much we also ordered one set of those. It was only lightly sweet which I appreciated, fluffy and nicely presented.

imageI’m not sure why we didn’t order ‘Uni Sushi‘ (sea urchin) the last time but this was simply fantastic. Even that I always have issues which too unique textures, this tasted so fresh and sweet and creamy that I hardly took notice of the consistency which actually wasn’t too bad anyway.

imageLike the last time we had the ‘Toro Aburi Sushi‘ (charred tuna belly) which again was very nice but to see what it would taste like in it’s original state we ordered the raw version as well. And oh my goodness this melted the exact same way in my mouth just colder and fresher than the charred version. Absolutely amazing.

imageAnother newbie for me here was the ‘Hotate Sushi‘ (scallop). Raw scallop was something I sadly avoided for a very long time which I only regretted when I forced myself trying it at ‘Nagomi‘ for the first time. The flesh had a very delicate texture, soft and light and tasted like pure freshness without any fishy aftertaste.

imageA new cooked dish we had was the ‘Grilled Beef with Miso Paste‘. The waiter unfortunately couldn’t tell me what type of meat it was but only that it was a sirloin cut. It was incredibly soft which I found slightly weird because of my distinct dislike of tenderized meat – I doubt this one was though – but it tasted great and dipping it into the miso paste gave it a lovely aroma.

You’re at good place when the dishes make you smile. That’s all I have to say.

http://www.fukuichidining.com.sg/

Fukuichi Japanese Dining
111 Somerset Road
#02-11/12 TripleOne Somerset
Singapore 238164
Tel: +65 6271 5586

Sushi Fish Mart in the West

imageA very good friend brought me to ‘Sakuraya Fish Mart’ at West Coast Plaza because it is her family’s go to place for ‘Sashimi‘ and ‘Sushi‘. I entered the restaurant through a small Japanese grocery store and when my friend showed up we chose the ‘Sashimi‘ items from a chilled display right at the entrance.

imageWe had the standards ‘Sake‘ (Salmon) which was super soft and ‘Maguro‘ (Tuna) that had the perfect texture and a clean and sweet taste. We also ordered ‘Hotate‘ (Scallop) which tasted good but was a bit moist and slippery, ‘Mekajiki‘ (Swordfish) that I didn’t like because of it’s unpleasant texture and the ‘Kanpachi‘ (Greater Amberjack) and ‘Hamachi‘ (Yellowtail) which both had great taste and were not too lardy on the red bit.

imageFor the second round we had ‘Ebi & Tako‘ Sushi (Cooked Prawn and Octopus) which were ok but not overwhelming and the ‘Tako‘ was actually a bit on the chewy side. What was actually nice was the ‘Spicy Salmon Maki‘ which was not particularly tangy but had a great crunch from the fried salmon skin they put into it.

imageWe also ordered some cooked dishes like the ‘Fried Edamame Tofu‘ that was pretty much chunky mashed soya beans in a tofu mix battered and fried. The texture was a bit odd but interesting with the edamame bits in between but the taste was rather blend. Another one was the ‘Fried Tako‘ which was nicely crispy but pretty dry and tough too bite on the other hand.

imageLast but not least we ate the ‘Cold Buckwheat Soba‘. Though taste wise ok, this was a bit of a difficult to eat as the noodles all stuck together in one lump and unfortunately they also didn’t use any ginger in the dipping sauce.

I quite like the food here fresh and all and I appreciated that I was able to choose the exact piece of fish I later got on my table but the setup was very mall like and lacked atmosphere but seemed very suitable for families with kids.

http://www.sakuraya.com.sg/

Sarukaya Fish Mart
154 West Coast Road
#B1-50/51/52 West Coast Plaza
127371 Singapore
Tel: +65 6773 6973

Top Notch Sushi at Somerset

imageA friend wanted to have some sushi tonight and since we didn’t want to go to the same old place again and again we went to ‘Fukuichi’ at TripleOne Somerset which he had heard good things about. The place had a smart casual setting and we sat down at the big sushi bar in the corner.

imageWe started with an evergreen – ‘Maguro Sashimi‘ – that was beautifully fresh with a clean sweet taste. The thick slices looked brilliant; dark red in color with a marble like look and the texture was just as I like it, soft and firm.

We also ordered a nice selection of sushi – ‘Ebi‘ (Prawn), ‘Hamachi‘ (Yellow Tail), ‘Tako‘ (Octopus), ‘Unagi‘ (Eel) and ‘Aburi Toro‘ (Seared Tuna Belly).

imageThe ‘Aburi Toro‘ was a real eye opener in all presentation, texture and taste. Usually I am not such a huge fan of toro as it tends to be more difficult to chew but not this one, the charred top was warm and crusty and underneath there was a explosion of flavors that literally melted away. Fantastic.

imageThe ‘Tako‘ was super fresh and must have been massaged for a very long time as it had the perfect chewiness yet firm texture. It tasted great and was a delight to eat, another sign they really care about the quality of their food.

imageNow the ‘Hamachi‘  was a surprise as it had the same consistency as the lovely maguro and a clean and down to earth flavor.  Pure and like straight off the sea.

imageThe ‘Unagi‘ was creamy and moist and touched by a hint of  this special sweet sauce that did fit the eel perfectly.

imageTheir ‘Sake Maki‘ reminded me a little bit of the ‘Shiok Maki’ at ‘Koh’s‘. I appreciated they weren’t using as much mayonaise here but I still prefer the normal straight sushi to these “creamy” ones.

imageThe ‘Agedashi Tofi‘ tasted good but it was much firmer than I would have liked it as I have learned to love the very soft silk tofu which is often used for this dish.

imageWe also ordered a ‘Miso Eggplant‘ of which one half was spiked with prawn chunks and the other half was covered with a thick layer of miso paste. I didn’t really get the prawn part as it didn’t add any special flavor to the dish just a weird alien texture that didn’t really work for me. The prawn free half though was pretty tasty with a nice caramelization and softly baked eggplant flesh. A pinch to sweet maybe.

imageEven that we already had ordered so much, when I realized they had ‘Marlin‘ on the menu I had to try it and later I had to pad myself on the shoulder for this as it was such an awesome idea. This fish really blew me away, nicely grilled and lightly seasoned with a fantastic soya sauce, salt and pepper, nothing else and the meat tasted and felt very similar to nicely grilled tuna. I absolutely adored this and was happy about the generous portion size.

imageWe finished our decadent meal with some lovely ‘Cold Udon with Ginger & Scallions‘. They offer this dish in several variations and with different noodles and we opted for the thin udon. The texture of the noodles was springy and chewy as it’s meant to be and the mix of xo soya sauce, freshly grated ginger and the scallions tasted lovely refreshing and delicate. My liking for cold noodles is constantly increasing and this one right here was a great closer for our dinner.

imageAs full as I was after all this food as happy was I to have tried something new. This may not be the cheapest of places around but therefore surely ranks under the best sushi restaurants I have been to in Singapore. Highest quality ingredients, perfectly executed flavor combinations (except the prawn eggplant maybe), the friendly service and the fact that this place has an outdoor sake bar got ‘Fukuichi’ a red bookmark in my collection of places to return too. Amazing.

http://www.fukuichidining.com.sg/

Fukuichi Japanese Dining
111 Somerset Road
#02-11/12 TripleOne Somerset
Singapore 238164

Trains, Raw Fish and Sticky Rice

imageAfter a beautiful day walking around I felt slightly hungry. My big portion of ‘Tsukemen’ from ‘Menya Musashi’ at lunchtime still made me feel pretty filled but since it was my first day I felt it was my duty to have at least a little something raw and just outside of Shinagawa station there was ‘Ushio’ a small sushi bar that fitted the purpose perfectly. It’s one of these small places you find all around with hardly more than ten seats which unfortunately were all taken when I arrived but after a little wait I finally placed the order for my first round of sushi with the master.

I started up with ‘Kappa Maki’ (cucumber roll), ‘Tako’ (octopus), ‘Ebi’ (cooked shrimp), ‘Hamachi’ (yellow tail) and ‘Maguro’ (tuna). The different types of fish tasted fresh and sweet and had great textures, all soft and firm. I particularly liked the dark red ‘Maguro’ and the ‘Tako’ who I grew to love. Beforehand I had read up some sushi etiquette and not knowing if it was actually true I followed it to the last bit. This meant not asking for extra wasabi, what was not necessary anyway and eating the sushi with my hands. The rice was super sticky so it was a bit of a bother getting it off my fingers after eating each piece.

imageTime for the second round. I felt a bit more adventurous so I ordered ‘Engawa’ (halibut), ‘Chutoro’ (medium fatty tuna belly) and to see one familiar face I added a second piece of that lovely tuna. I have no complaints at all about the taste the halibut actually didn’t taste like much but the ‘Chutoro’ had a nice distinct aroma, which was much richer than the lean version. I still preferred my old favorite as both others were borderline in regards to enjoyable texture for me and needed much more chewing to bring them down.

USHIO front (1 of 1)I really liked ‘Ushio’ as a small casual place, yet with atmosphere and this typical Japanese feel of special and hidden elegance. Where else than only in Japan to find a ten seater train station restaurant with tasty quality food at 80-300 JPY per sushi. Not socks of rocking but still much better than many proper restaurants in other countries.

Ushio Sushi Bar タイトル
1-30-2 Nishigotanda (Shinagawa Station)
Shinagawa
Tokyo Prefecture
Japan
Tel: +81 3 3490 0367

Homecook Style Omakase!

imageAfter returning from our short trip I had planned a treat for my visitors by booking a table at one of my favorite special occasions Japanese restaurant, ‘Nagomi’ at Cuppage Plaza. It’s difficult to tell if you’re at the right place until you stick your head through the noren at the entrance and realize you just found a little piece of Japan in the middle of Singapore. ‘Nagomi’ is very small with only four tables and a bar and had a traditional yet modern Japanese interior. Light is dimmed and urn like pottery filled with aging ‘Shochu‘ of regular customers is covering the shelves. They import their ingredients directly from Japan and change their a la carte menu very regularly depending on what’s in season and currently available. Since this is only available in Japanese we decided for the eight course ‘Omakase‘ (chef’s menu).

My friends started up with some massive oysters which they said to be fresh and tasty. I can’t eat them cause first I don’t really like them and second the consistency grosses me out. Chef Nada Satoru always asks what you don’t eat before he starts preparing the first course and so my oyster substitute today was a Japanese tomato. I know, just a tomato, but always having these red tasteless water balls you get in the supermarket, this one was pure and intense tomato taste. And yet again “Simplicity.”

The second course was a fabulous sashimi platter with ‘Uni‘ (sea urchin), ‘Hotate‘ (scallop), ‘Maguro‘ or ‘Toro‘ (tuna/tuna belly) – I didn’t ask but it was definitely a fattier piece – as well as three other fishes I forgot the names but each one of them was super fresh and had a soft texture which I prefer so much to tough bites.

imageI asked at the beginning if they had their amazing ‘Slow Braised Pork Belly‘ and was rather disappointed when I heard it was not on the menu but only until I found out what took it’s place: ‘King Crab‘. This portion was humongous and the flesh was so sweet and needed nothing more to it to make it truly amazing.

imageNext up were two whole ‘Kinki‘ fish in a light and superior broth. The fillets fell off the bones and were nice and soft. There weren’t too many bones in it but the few were tiny dangerous and difficult to separate from the fish once in your mouth. We continued with big fried ‘Deepwater Fish‘ (similar to sardines) which, except the heads, were still completely intact and covered in a nice Japanese batter   with dipping salt aside. Once I got over the thought that the first bite included the tiny innards of the fish, it tasted delicious and was  nicely juicy.

imageFollowing the fish we did get ‘Grilled Wagyu Beef‘ together with a sweet dipping sauce and wrapping lettuce drizzled with a wafu vinaigrette. It tasted great but the meat had some thin tough parts which made it difficult to bite pieces off. The seventh course was ‘Japanese Porridge‘ which tasted nicely simple but delicate and was nearly a bit too much after all the other dishes. We took a bit of a break before closing our menu with some lovely sweet ‘Japanese Strawberries’. 

Of course this is not a place for everyday dining, mainly because of the over one hundred dollars per head (not including drinks), but for special occasions or if you just want to take your time (around 2 hours++) and celebrate great quality food, this is the place. Domo Arigato Gozaimas.

Nagomi Restaurant
5 Koek Road
#02-22 Cuppage Plaza
Singapore 228796
Tel: +65 6732 4300
http://www.nagomirestaurant.com.sg/